a bit of a tongue twister, but…

…Yet perhaps it is precisely this that we are being called to: engaging in that most difficult task of putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth.

-Peter Rollins, from his new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

A bit of a tongue twister, I admit…  but a very interesting point.

What do you think?  Is it possible for Christianity to be a religion, that is in fact, not a religion at all?  What would that even look like?

Innerrancy or Truth

What provides “home run power” – is it the bat, or the batter’s swing? Both, of course.

Vanhoozer likens Scripture, the written Word of God, as the bat, and the triune God speaking through it as the batter. So the statements “Scripture is true” and “the living God speaks truly through Scripture” are not necessarily equivalent statements. The first focuses on the bat, whereas the second focuses on the batter.

…I personally think it’s better to simply say that Scripture is true and to let truth be the guiding understanding of Scripture. Especially since “inerrant” isn’t a biblical word. We can be fully biblical in describing Scripture with terms that Scripture itself uses, like “God-breathed” or “living and active” or “cannot be broken” and the like. But “inerrant” seems to claim something about Scripture that Scripture does not necessarily claim about itself, especially in how folks tend to use it or perceive the term today.

…Yes, Scripture is “inerrant,” if you still want to use the term – but it’s so much more. It’s a gracious, truthful, sanctifying Word of the triune Father, Son and Spirit.

-Al Hsu

Read the entire post over at The Suburban Christian

NT Wright: “there is life after life after death”

Another fantastic article, as usual, from NT Wright (or Jedi Master NT Wright, as Matt Ritchie has been known to call him).

This interview was conducted with pastors/teachers as the primary audience, but I think that there is a lot in it that is useful regardless of your vocation. Here are a few choice quotes to whet your appetite:

For me, therefore, there’s no disjunction between preaching about the salvation which is ours in God’s new age—the new heavens and new earth—and preaching about what that means for the present. The two go very closely together. If you have an eschatology that is nonmaterial, why bother with this present world? But if God intends to renew the world, then what we do in the present matters. That’s 1 Corinthians 15:58! This understanding has made my preaching more challenging to me, and hopefully to my hearers, to actually get off our backsides and do something in the local community—things that are signs of new creation.

Some people are always going to be offended when you actually teach them what’s in the Bible as opposed to what they assume is in the Bible. The preacher can try to say it a number of ways, and sometimes people just won’t get it. They will continue to hear what they want to hear. But if you soft-pedal matters, they will think, Oh, he’s taking us down the old familiar paths. There is a time for walking in and just saying what needs to be said.

A person goes to heaven first and then to the new heavens and new earth. People stare at you like you’ve just invented some odd heresy, but sorry—this is what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament doesn’t have much to say about what happens to people immediately after they die. It’s much more interested in the anticipation of the ultimate new world within this one. If you concentrate on preaching life after death, you devalue the present world. Life after life after death, however, reaffirms the value of this present world.

And since all followers of Jesus are called to announce/demonstrate/preach the Gospel at all times, I think this last quote is especially applicable to us all:

…To preach the Resurrection is to announce the fact that the world is a different place, and that we have to live in that “different-ness.” The Resurrection is not just God doing a wacky miracle at one time. We have to preach it in a way that says this was the turning point in world history.

See, now you’re not laughing anymore about that “Jedi Master” nickname… ha ha.

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Out of Ur)

Penal Substitutionary Atonement: Let’s flip it on it’s head

So, there’s this thing called Penal Substitutionary Atonement (I’ll call it PSA from now on)… which is just a theological/geeky way of describing how it is that Jesus accomplished the task of reconciling people back to God.

It points back to Old Testament practices of having an “Atoning Sacrifice”, which was an animal that was killed by the Hebrew priests as a way to “atone”, or to “make amends”, for the sins of the entire people group of Israel. (NOTE: someone please chime in if I’m getting any of this wrong) So, PSA is a way to describe what Jesus did in light of this OT practice; here’s a good description of it from Wikipedia:

“It argues that Christ, by His own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalized) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins. It is thus a specific understanding of substitutionary atonement, where the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death is understood in the sense of a substitutionary punishment.”

In my experience, PSA is typically referenced when people say that:

“Jesus died for your sins.”

The context for this statement is typically this: my personal sin has caused a divide between God and myself, because God is perfectly Holy and Just and cannot have anything sinful in His presence, and the only thing that bridges that divide is accepting that Jesus has paid the necessary price (death) for the sins that I have, am and will continue to commit.

Matt over at Running with the Lion has proposed a different way to frame the way we talk about PSA, and frankly, I think it’s FANTASTIC. Matt says this:

I am a fan of Penal Substitution when it is used in defense of a victim. When a community singles out a particular sin and decides someone needs to suffer “consequences” for it, the penal substitution metaphor is the perfect remedy.

“We shouldn’t punish him,” one can argue quite convincingly, “because Christ has already paid the price for his sin.”

This is a completely different animal than the typical usage of PSA; it really flips it on it’s head. It makes the atonement of Jesus bigger than just me, and it makes a case for how we should treat others in light of how God has treated us.

Rather than being about how mad God is about the bad things I’ve done, and who He had to kill instead of me so that He could stand being around me… the idea that Matt proposes seems to be more about how we should treat everyone around us, in light of the fact that God has already taken their (and OUR) punishment upon Himself. Thus, it’s not my place to worry about whether or not anyone “gets what they deserve” because Jesus already paid that price; for ALL of us.

I think it’s a subtle shift in how you look at PSA, but I think it could have very NON-subtle ripple effects on our ability to love those around us.

And I think that’s important, because if we don’t have love, then we really don’t have anything at all…

Scot McKnight: The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel

This one’s just a quick head’s up about a great article from Scot McKnight:

The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel

Our problems are not small. The most cursory glance at the newspaper will remind us of global crises like AIDS, local catastrophes of senseless violence, family failures, ecological threats, and church skirmishes. These problems resist easy solutions. They are robust—powerful, pervasive, and systemic.

I sometimes worry we have settled for a little gospel, a miniaturized version that cannot address the robust problems of our world. But as close to us as the pages of a nearby Bible, we can find the Bible’s robust gospel, a gospel that is much bigger than many of us have dared to believe:

The gospel is the story of the work of the triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) to completely restore broken image-bearers (Gen. 1:26–27) in the context of the community of faith (Israel, Kingdom, and Church) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Pentecostal Spirit, to union with God and communion with others for the good of the world.

The gospel may be bigger than this description, but it is certainly not smaller. And as we declare this robust gospel in the face of our real, robust problems, we will rediscover just how different it is from the small gospel we sometimes have believed and proclaimed.

(HT: Emergent Village)

How do you interpret and apply Scripture?

Take a look at Scot McKnight‘s Hermeneutics Quiz and determine how you personally interpret and apply the Bible. You just have to answer a handful of questions, all multiple choice, and it returns a numerical position on a scale ranging from more conservative to more progressive treatment of the Bible.

Here are my results if you’re curious:

The Hermeneutics Quiz
Score: 71
Evaluation: You scored between 66 and 100, meaning you’re a progressive on The Hermeneutics Scale.

The progressive is not always progressive. Those who score 66 or more can be seen as leaning toward the progressive side, but the difference between at 66 and 92 is dramatic. Still, the progressive tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today. Following a progressive hermeneutic, for the Word to speak in our day, one must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world. The strength, as with the moderate but even more so, is the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day, and this means the progressives tend to be historians. But the problems for the progressives are predictable: Will the Bible’s so-called “plain meaning” be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?

Here’s a sampling of some of the questions:

The Bible’s words are:
1. Inerrant on everything.
2. I fall somewhere between No. 1 and No. 3.
3. Inerrant on only matters of faith and practice.
4. I fall somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5.
5. Not defined by inerrancy or errancy, which are modernistic categories.

Homosexuality’s prohibitions in the Bible are:
1. Permanent prohibitions reflecting God’s will.
2. I fall somewhere between No. 1 and No. 3.
3. Culturally shaped, still normative, but demanding greater sensitivity today.
4. I fall somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5.
5. A purity-code violation that has been eliminated by Christ.

Discerning the historical context of a passage is:
1. Unimportant since God speaks directly to me.
2. I fall somewhere between No. 1 and No. 3.
3. Often and sometimes significant in order to grasp meaning.
4. I fall somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5.
5. Necessary and dangerous to avoid in reading the Bible.

So, what’s your score? Any thoughts on any of the specific questions? I think this could be a good one for discussion…

(HT: Emergent Village)

The only ones that don’t know, are the Church (John Wimber)

Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading The Pentecostal Church. He got real upset and said, “That guy’s drunk.” I said, “No, he’s a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine.” He asked, “Do you know about church?” I said, “Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?” It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he’d heard about the church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master’s wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance—every horrible thing you could imagine. We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we’re standing there on the landing I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes—he’d been around, you know. I said, “Answer me this one question.” Now keep in mind, I’m planning on witnessing to him. “If there was a God and he had a church, what would it be like?” He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, “Well, if there was a God and he had a church—they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn’t charge you money to teach you the Book.” I turned around and it was like an explosion in my chest. “Oh, God.” I just cried, I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like. The only ones that don’t know are the Church.(emphasis mine)

(HT: Catalyst Blog -> ThinkChristian -> Jordon Cooper -> John Wimber’s Jesus’ Mandate for Justice, pg. 4)

Interview with Brian McLaren

Here’s a pretty good read if you’ve got the time; especially if you’re still not sure what you think about this Brian McLaren guy… it’s a pretty indepth snapshot of a lot of his thoughts/positions on things.  Very worth the read, in my opinion, so I thought I’d share it for those of you who are interested.

A battle cry for Christian reform – an interview with Brian McLaren

(HT: Emergent Village)

“…Modernity had its place, but it is over.”

“We look at church history and think it’s beautiful, and modernity had its place, but it is over. And it’s not like postmodernism is better, but it is more relevant. It’s just growth. Is a two year old more important than a fifty year old or vice versa? And it’s not that emergents are rebelling against the modern church; it’s that we are asking questions because we have to.”

-“Matt” – from ON APOLOGETICS, SALVATION, DECISIONS AND HELL: An Interview with a few Emerging types at a local Baptist church

(HT: Emergent Village)